The utility of Ki-67 and BrdU as proliferative markers of adult neurogenesis

J Neurosci Methods. 2002 Mar 30;115(1):97-105. doi: 10.1016/s0165-0270(02)00007-9.


Adult animals continue to produce new neurons in the dentate gyrus of hippocampus. Until now, the principal method of studying neurogenesis has been to inject either tritiated thymidine or 5'-Bromo-2-deoxyuridine (BrdU) intraperitoneally followed by autoradiographic or immunohistochemical detection methods respectively. However, such exogenous markers may produce toxic effects. Our objective was to determine whether Ki-67, a nuclear protein expressed in all phases of the cell cycle except the resting phase, can be used as an alternative, endogenous marker. Using immunohistochemistry, we examined Ki-67 and BrdU expression pattern in rats. Ki-67 was expressed within the proliferative zone of the dentate gyrus and its expression pattern mimicked that of BrdU when examined soon after exogenous BrdU administration. Quantitative comparison of BrdU and Ki-67-positive cells showed 50% higher numbers of the latter when examined 24 h after the BrdU injection. This was expected, since BrdU can be incorporated into DNA only during the S-phase of the mitotic process, whereas Ki-67 is expressed for its whole duration. Experimental increases (by ischemia) or reductions (by radiation) in the number of mitotic cells produced parallel changes in BrdU and Ki-67 signals. Thus, Ki-67 is an effective mitotic marker and has most of the benefits of BrdU and none of the costs. This study provides evidence for Ki-67 to be used as a marker of proliferation in the initial phase of adult neurogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Bromodeoxyuridine* / pharmacology
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology*
  • Dentate Gyrus / cytology
  • Dentate Gyrus / growth & development*
  • Dentate Gyrus / metabolism
  • Gamma Rays / adverse effects
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Ki-67 Antigen*
  • Male
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Dpysl3 protein, rat
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Bromodeoxyuridine